Tõnu Kõrvits has been described as “a rising star in Estonian contemporary music”, and recently his works have been attracting increasing international attention. His music is characterised by rich sonorities, captivating moods and the seamless blend of a variety of influences from minimalism to Romanticism and from folk music to Expressionism. The mythical/poetic titles of his works reflect their sources of inspiration, as with The Detached Bridge; For You, the Messenger of Night; To My Spiritual Brother; River of Gratitude; and Melancholy of Flowers. Kõrvits’s extensive output includes operas, orchestral works, numerous works for soloist and orchestra, chamber music and solo works and a great deal of vocal music.
During the first decade of the 2000s, Kõrvits wrote a dozen works that form a loosely conceived series: their underlying unifying factor is the myth that emerged in Antiquity of a land in the far north named Thule. These works range from solo works and chamber music to orchestral works. The motivation for this project was that one of the locations suggested to have inspired the myth of Thule is the island of Saarenmaa in modern Estonia. Accordingly, Estonian folk music plays an important role in most of the works in this series.
Elegies of Thule (2007) is shaped as a three-movement suite evoking moods both intensely dark and brilliantly radiant. The opening movement, ‘Night is Darkening’, does what the title says in a web of rich textures and melodic lines. The middle movement, ‘Bells’, features pizzicato passages framing a broad legato central section, drawing on a folk tune named Kellä [Bells] of the Setos, a tiny minority in south-eastern Estonia known for its runo singing tradition. The work concludes with ‘I Look up to the Hills’, where minimalist field textures frame an ancient sacred tune originally from Saarenmaa.